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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Written Sketches              257

Raffaelle as believing him to be the Three per Cents of artistic
securities. Did I not like the " Madonna di S. Sisto " ? I said,
"No." I said the large photo looked well at a distance
because the work was so concealed under a dark and sloppy
glaze that any one might see into it pretty much what one
chose to bring, while the small photo looked well because it
had gained so greatly by reduction. I said the Child was all
very well as a child but a failure as a Christ, as all infant
Christs must be to the end of time. I said the Pope and female
saint, whoever she was, were commonplace, as also the angels
at the bottom. I admitted the beauty of line in the Virgin's
drapery and also that the work was an effective piece of
decoration, but I said it was not inspired by devotional or
serious feeling of any kind and for impressiveness could not
hold its own with even a very average Madonna by Giovanni
Bellini. They appealed to the Italian, but he said there was
a great reaction against Raffaelle in Italy now and that few
of the younger men thought of him as their fathers had done.
Gogin, of course, backed me up, so they were in a minority.
It was not at all what they expected or were accustomed to.
I yielded wherever I could and never differed without giving
a reason which they could understand. They must have seen
that there was no malice prepense, but it always came round
to this in the end that we did not agree with them.

Then they played Leonardo Da Vinci. I had not intended
saying how cordially I dislike him, but presently they became
enthusiastic about the head of the Virgin in the " Vierge aux
Rochers " in our Gallery. I said Leonardo had not succeeded
with this head; he had succeeded with the angel's head
lower down to the right (I think) of the picture, but had failed
with the Madonna. They did not like my talking about
Leonardo Da Vinci as now succeeding and now failing, just
like other people. I said it was perhaps fortunate that we
knew the " Last Supper " only by engravings and might fancy
the original to have been more full of individuality than the
engravings are, and I greatly questioned whether I should
have liked the work if I had seen it as it was when Leonardo
left it. As for his caricatures he should not have done them,
much less preserved them; the fact of his having set store
by them was enough to show that there was a screw loose
about him somewhere and that he had no sense of humour,